Updated 19 hours ago
EMPTY SUPERMARKET SHELVES, queues at petrol stations and pumps running dry is far from what one would expect from Britain in 2021.
How they got to this point appears to differ based on the political leanings of who you ask but the facts are clear: Brexit is at the root of the shortages and issues plaguing Britain.
After years of negotiations, the British Government led by Boris Johnson got what they wanted – a hard, extreme Brexit with the UK out of the Customs Union and Single Market.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of non-UK workers have had no choice but to leave the UK and return to the EU. This includes 14,000 lorry drivers in a single year. Now, Britain cannot access enough lorry drivers to deliver petrol to their pumps or food to the supermarket shelves.
As a result, queues tens of cars deep have formed across Britain and 50-85% of all independent service stations have run dry. Supermarket shelves are running low, chain restaurants from McDonald’s to Nando’s and Subway are closing temporarily due to food shortages and C02 shortages are leading to delays in accessing everything from fizzy drinks and crisps to baby food and packaged meats.
If you ask the British Government the reasoning behind this chaos, they claim it is purely down to the Covid-19 pandemic. This, however, is simply not the whole truth.
Were HGV tests cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions? Absolutely. Did this lead to 14,000 drivers leaving the UK? No. Have other EU member states experienced driver shortages? Absolutely, Ireland alone is estimated to be short 4,000 drivers.
However, do we have food or fuel shortages? No, the shelves in Ireland and across Europe are full. The Covid-19 pandemic hit the EU to largely the same extent as the UK and yet we are experiencing none of these issues, thanks to our EU Membership. The persistent underlying factor in this situation is Brexit and ignoring the reality of the situation will not change this.
‘Nothing to see here’
The British Government’s response to this shortage is to offer 5,000 visas to fuel and lorry drivers and 5,500 to poultry workers from the EU that will run until Christmas Eve.
Considering the UK is facing a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers, this is merely a drop in the ocean compared to what they need to address this. Even when faced with better pay in the UK than at home, many drivers will not take such a short-term contract when they cannot bring their family or dependents.
Looking to the EU to solve their issues that are supposedly unrelated to Brexit is not a good reflection of where the UK have found themselves as of late.
Northern Ireland, which is protected from the worst impacts of Brexit thanks to the Protocol, is not experiencing these issues either. Northern Ireland has retained access to the EU Single Market and so can easily diversify its markets where there are supply chain issues and as a result, the fuel pumps and supermarkets are full.
This is not to say that there have not been issues for Northern Ireland since Brexit, however as the new system was ‘bedded in’ and businesses redesigned their supply chains through the EU, they have been much better ff and as a result, exports from Ireland to Northern Ireland have increased by 42%.
The fact is that in attempting to dupe the British public, the British Government is doing themselves no favours. Around 53% of Britons believe that Brexit is going badly. Ignoring the reality of the situation they have found themselves in will not change this.
Clearly, the fault lies with the hard Brexit that the British Government were so determined to see implemented. With no other EU Member State facing these issues and turning to the EU to solve these problems, the UK Government are misleading the very people they seek to represent. We always knew no Brexit could be a good Brexit but the reality is very stark indeed.
Neale Richmond is a Fine Gael TD for Dublin Rathdown and is former Seanad spokesperson on EU affairs for the party.
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